Several years ago a friend of mine preached from Luke 20:1, as translated in the KJV: “And it came to pass on one of those days.” He spoke of the reality that, just as we sometimes have the negative experience having “one of those days,” even Jesus faced such. Just as we have days in which we face difficulties and disappointments, we can take encouragement that so did our Lord and Saviour. My friend’s point was true, though his exegesis was really poor! Though he read into the text a modern and Western idea, nevertheless his thesis was valid. Yes, Jesus had tough days and because of this we can find comfort in Him as our High Priest. He knows what it’s like to face “one of those days.” I am glad about that, and I was especially glad a couple of Mondays ago.
As I recently shared with the church family, I went out that particular Monday morning for a run, hoping to clear my head and to escape the growling and depressive “black dog” that often greets me the morning after an exhausting Sunday of ministry.
As I began my run I was feely pretty miserable; in fact, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself! As I wrestled against discouraging thoughts—among other things, questioning my effectiveness in ministry—I ran under some pine trees giving some shade to the pavement. Unbeknownst to me they were also giving shelter to either a very large bird or to a flock of them. My assessment is based on what came from above! Yes, I became the resting place of bird waste, to put it politely. Of course, because it was “one of those days,” it was only fitting that, for whatever reason, I had chosen not to wear my customary running cap. And so all of sudden my hair, shirt and right arm became the receptacle for really nasty bird poop (forget the politeness). Over the years I have run many thousands of kilometres but this was the first (and I seriously hope it is the last!) time that I have experienced such a fowl experience—pun intended.
My initial response was disgust and frustration. I thought “Oh great, this is just what I need.” Shortly thereafter, I began to laugh as I realised that indeed it was exactly what I needed. God knew it and so God allowed it. Yes, this messy experience was a providential experience.
After the initial disconcerting experience, the truth of the sovereignty of God came home to me. After all, if God knows when a sparrow falls, then I am sure that He knows when something falls from the sparrow (though I think in my case it was a swan!). The perfect timing of that bird doing its business, and the proximity of my body, were all under the sovereign control of God. I don’t know all of the reasons for the perfect alignment of these events but I do think that God was teaching me an important lesson right when I needed to learn it. Namely, the Lord was teaching me to stop taking myself too seriously. In fact, as I continued to run (why were people looking at me so strange?!), I remembered a story about the godly pastor and author, A. W. Tozer.
Two young men were soon to depart for the mission field. They asked this venerable pastor for some last minute sage advice. He looked at them intently and said, “Young men, do not take your selves too seriously.”
He exhorted them to take their gospel ministry very seriously and to above all take God seriously but not themselves. On that Monday morning—“one of those days”—I was strikingly reminded of this. And so I laughed.
The Lord has a sense of humour. One reason that I know this is because man is made in His image and we have a sense of humour. The Lord was not laughing at me when his two-winged servants let loose; rather, He wanted for me to laugh because after all, as Solomon informs us, “laughter is like medicine to the heart.” He was helping me to come to grips with the reality that, though I have purpose in this world, the world is not on my shoulders—and neither is the church. The bird mess that was sitting on my shoulders was a striking pedagogical tool to driving this lesson home.
Perhaps you can relate to this. All too often we become morbidly introspective because we take ourselves too seriously. In other words, we tend to assume the prerogative of God by assuming our sovereignty. This is a form of idolatry in which we assume that we are responsible for all outcomes rather than simply fulfilling our duties and leaving the results with God.
But a wonderful antidote is to take the Lord and His truth and His mission very seriously (Matthew 6:9-10) while refusing to take ourselves seriously—at all. Let me illustrate this further by asking a question.
What is the name of your great-great grandfather? I would guess that most of us would only be able to guess! Though they may indeed have been very significant people in their lifetime, and though they may even have accomplished some great things—though in fact they may have been wonderful servants of God in the work of the kingdom—their names are a faint memory at best. Now, that is not to minimise their faithfulness or their fruitfulness, and neither is this meant to demean their significance. Yet at the same time this illustrates that we should not take ourselves too seriously. As John Wesley observed, “God buries His workmen but His work continues.”
It is healthy to laugh at ourselves. But we can only do so when we realise that, though we may be the target of rude birds, we are the objects of God’s amazing love. In fact, that is why He orchestrates “one of those days” for us. He wants us to feel the relief of having the weight of the world lifted from our shoulders. And having a sense of humour, He may choose to do so in the most unexpected of ways. If you are having “one of those days,” then go look at the birds, remember your sovereign God, and have a good chuckle. Everything is fine; He is in control.